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Tips for HR Managers as Marijuana Laws Change

Ella Baker
Tips for HR Managers as Marijuana Laws Change
Reading time 3 Mins
Published on Aug 21

In January 2019, Ohio’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors. With the number of individuals granted medical marijuana prescriptions already topping 42,000, Ohio employers are beginning to feel the impact of usage in the workplace. While many medical marijuana prescription cardholders are outside the workforce due to chronic illness or injury, human resource managers must be ready to face the potential challenges ahead or risk making policy changes (and mistakes) on the fly as they play catch-up to the impacts of marijuana use in the workplace. Here are a few tips to help HR managers prepare to handle the growing legalization of marijuana and its increasing use among active members of the workforce.

Get it in writing

Unlike some other states, Ohio’s medical marijuana laws do not require employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace. For companies with a zero-tolerance policy, this means that you don’t have to alter your current policy or make special accommodations for those with medical marijuana prescriptions.

If you plan to implement or keep your current zero-tolerance policy, make sure that your policy is clearly defined and delivered to every employee upon hire. Be sure to include an electronic or printed and signed acknowledgement of receipt in every employee’s file. Your policy should be applied fairly and equally to all employees to avoid accusations of discrimination or favoritism. To learn more about establishing a drug-free workplace, read How to Establish a Drug-Free Safety Program with the Ohio BWC.

Think about accommodations

While employees may challenge hiring or dismissal decisions based on their use of medical marijuana, most courts have sided with employers in states where the use of marijuana is legal for either recreational or medical purposes. Usually, these decisions are based on the continued illegality of marijuana at the federal level.

However, if the underlying medical condition which prompted the medical marijuana prescription rises to the level of a disability, companies may need to make accommodations for the employee. Since Ohio’s medical marijuana laws are so new, there isn’t sufficient precedent for exactly how employers should deal with accommodations. Check out Marijuana Legalization: Effects on the Workplace to learn more.

Consider other entities

For fleet carriers governed by the Department of Transportation, companies whose employees are regularly exposed to or handle hazardous chemicals, or run large equipment, you may not have the option to accommodate drug use of any kind. Additionally, those employers who have contracts with the federal government must keep their zero-tolerance policy in place. In these types of businesses, a mind that is clouded from marijuana use can lead to serious injuries or even death.

Employers in these types of industries may consider developing modified duty or temporary assignments within the company for an employee who has a medical marijuana prescription, if the use is short term or for a predefined amount of time. For on-going medical marijuana use, companies may look at permanent job reassignment or job skills training programs to allow employees to train and qualify for other positions.

Tips you can trust

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